What Scents Will Keep Rats & Mice Away

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You don’t have to wait for the mice or rats to arrive to start exploring ways to make them disappear. Oftentimes, the best form of treatment is prevention before a problem arises. Regarding rat or mice infestations, you can start by eliminating all food and water sources from your home, business, and outdoor living areas. 

Rats and mice may still seek shelter when the weather gets uncomfortable outdoors, but you can use natural scents to turn them around in their tracks. The big questions are what scents will keep rats away and how you apply them safely to your property. 

What Fragrances Keep Rats and Mice Away? 

Our exploration of scents that repel rats starts with fragrances. Essential oils are the best way to introduce smells that rats find unpleasant to your property. You can apply them safely; many oils aren’t harmful to humans or pets. Let’s discuss some of the best fragrances and oils to use and how you can apply them safely. 

Essential Oils: What Natural Scents Repel Rodents? 

Essential oils are readily available, but peppermint oil is the best option. As long as you use pure essential oil from a reputable company, this essential oil is safe for use around humans and most pets. It presents a strong aroma that many humans can tolerate but rats cannot. 

In one scientific study, researchers placed rats in an enclosed apparatus that featured an inner and outer zone. They placed various blends of essential oils in the center of the inner zone and then monitored to see where the rats would spend the most time after encountering each of those smells. 

The results presented a couple of interesting facts: 

  • The rats spent the most time in the apparatus in the inner zone on the first day. 
  • The rats exposed to plain cardboard not treated with any smell spent more time in the inner zone close to the smell than test subjects exposed to cardboard saturated with the oils. 
  • Once they encountered the cardboard saturated with essential oils, the rats spent most of their time in the outer zone away from the smell. 

Researchers also studied the amount of treated cardboard that the rats chewed. The results showed three essential oil blends that the rats stayed away from and weren’t likely to chew: 

  • Wintergreen oil and chili 
  • Wintergreen oil and peppermint oil, and bergamot oil
  • Bergamot oil and geranium oil 

These blends are great options if you want to use essential oils to repel rats. You may even enjoy the aroma around your home! 

Next up, let’s discuss the safest and most effective ways to use essential oils to deter rats in your home or commercial property. 

How to Apply Essential Oils to Repel Rats 

The easiest way to use essential oils for pest control is to mix about 10 drops of oil per cup of water in an empty spray bottle. Shake well and spray in areas where you have noticed rats or just want to add a touch of prevention. 

Alternatively, you can mix your choice of oils with water in a bowl. Dip cotton balls in the mixture, and then place the balls in the areas you want to treat. You can place them in corners, walls, cabinets, and pantries. 

If you just want to make your entire home unappealing to pests, try diffusing essential oils into your home. Diffusers are readily available at local stores and online. You can even find small ones at local discount stores for under $10. 

Just keep in mind that some pets and humans are sensitive to strong oil scents, so start with diffusing in one room for a short period to ensure your household is comfortable with the introduction. 

What Smells Drive Rats Away? 

If you don’t want to use essential oils or just want to consider other options, there are many other smells that can effectively deter rats from your property. 

Some are more effective than others, and some are safer. Some aren’t likely to work despite many online mentions, and some come with potential dangers if not used properly. 

Let’s break your options into three categories, starting with the safest natural scents likely to repel rats from many properties effectively and safely. 

We’ll then discuss some that you may use with caution and some that you don’t want to use because they don’t work or present dangers for humans and/or pets. 

The Safest Natural Scents to Repel Rats

What are the best scents to repel rats? We have some top recommendations right here. Pick up those that appeal to you most or that you may already have on hand. You can always try something different if you don’t find them effective. 

Black Pepper & Cayenne Pepper 

Does black pepper really repel rats or mice? Yes, it can work! 

Black pepper contains piperine, which researchers have proven lethal for rodents. That substance may also reduce appetite in female rats, reducing their desire to mate and the number of offspring they bring into the world. 

Rats also find black pepper and stronger pepper aromas like cayenne unappealing. The downside is that small pepper flakes are easily wiped, kicked, or washed away, especially when placed outdoors. You can use larger peppercorn pieces to create piles or fill corners if you want to try this approach. 

You can use black pepper alone or mix it with cayenne pepper for a more potent effect. 

Cat Odors 

Cats are feared predators for most rats and mice, so it makes sense that their smells can deter rodents quite easily. There are a few ways you can take advantage of this fact: 

  • Ask someone with cats in their home if you can borrow some of their used kitty litter. Dry it out with urine and feces still in place, and then spread it in areas you want to deter rats from entering. This is best for outdoor areas far away from your residence or business because you don’t want the odor in your living or workspace. 
  • Borrow a cat or two every two to four weeks. Let the cats roam the area you want to keep rat-free, getting their scent everywhere. The scent will wear off with time, and rain or snow can make that happen even faster in outdoor living areas.
  • Adopt a cat in need of a home. It’s not guaranteed to keep all rats away, but it can definitely help. It can also add something warm, cuddly, and happy to your household. 

Tabasco Sauce or Chili Pepper

When we discussed the most effective essential oil blends to deter rats above, we mentioned a scientific study that found chili powder mixed with wintergreen oil was a winner. It only makes sense that other hot food substances would work as well. 

Tabasco sauce and chili pepper are common kitchen staples with strong aromas that rats don’t want to mess around with, so they are safe and effective options. The catch is that rats need to get close to these hot substances to pick up on the strong smell of capsaicin. 

You may want to use large amounts to get a strong aroma going, so you should keep pets and children out of the area you’re treating. This is an option if you want to keep rats out of outdoor areas or for use around your home's or business's exterior. 

Use with Caution – Scents that Deter Rats but May Harm Humans or Pets

There are some scents that deter rats but aren’t safe for use around humans and pets. Some of these are still usable if you have outdoor areas or want to deter rats from property located away from your primary living space. 

You don’t want to use these within your home or nearby. Use with caution! 

Mothballs

Mothballs are often touted as one of the best scents to drive away rats, but the smell can also harm human health. In a real-life story shared by the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), one couple learned that lesson the hard way. 

After hearing rats in their attic and basement, the husband spread several boxes of mothballs in both areas of their home. The next day, the wife noticed a strong odor in the home and started having difficulty breathing. 

After checking in with NPIC, they learned that mothballs break down into a gas that can cause the following side effects in humans when inhaled in large quantities or over an extended period: 

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nose irritation
  • Eye irritation 
  • Coughing 
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage 

Mothballs can deter rats by smell alone, but you should only use them in a contained area away from humans and pets. That makes them suitable for barns and outdoor areas, but they’re not ideal for inside your home or in areas close to the home where pets may linger or even eat them. 

Ammonia

Ammonia is one of the top-recommended options for deterring rats with smell alone, but there are some potential risks for humans and pets. The smell is quite strong and has been shown to turn rats around in their tracks. It can even kill rats and mice when they inhale too much in a confined space. 

If you want to try it, you can mix ammonia with water and dish detergent. Soak cotton balls in the mixture and place them in areas you believe rats are frequenting or might want to invade. You can also use a spray bottle to saturate areas with the smell. 

Before you get started, a word of caution. Ammonia is a harsh smell for humans and pets to breathe, so you don’t want to use it in your primary living area or in a work area. It can cause respiratory distress, fatigue, and even death when inhaled for too long or in high quantities. 

While it’s effective for many people, save it for outdoor areas, barns, and other places that won’t impact humans or pets. 

Natural Rat-Repelling Scents to Avoid – The Myths & Dangers

We read all kinds of things online, right? There are a lot of scents that people claim will repel rats, but not all of them work effectively. Some are downright dangerous, especially if you don’t know how to use them properly. Let’s look at some of the rat-repelling claims that you may not want to try in real life. 

Bleach

It’s true that bleach can deter rats, but it’s not a pest control solution that you want to use. The strong aroma might do the job, but it will also harm humans and pets who must endure the smell and the potential rodent visitor. 

You wouldn’t spray a cleaning solution that contains bleach on surfaces in your home and leave it for hours or days; raw bleach is even worse. 

You would also need to use lots of bleach in a single space to deter rats effectively. It can degrade the integrity and color of anything it touches, including your clothing, carpeting, and other fabrics or hard materials. 

When Should You Call for Professional Help? 

You can explore natural scents to repel rats if you aren’t currently experiencing an infestation. Preventive measures are great when implemented safely and used over time to maximize effectiveness.

If you’re seeing evidence of an existing rat presence in or near your home, you may need to save the prevention later and call the experts at Natran Pest Control. 

We have the tools and expertise to eliminate rats and prevent their return, and we work faster and smarter than most inexperienced property owners. Contact us today to discuss your current situation and find a personalized solution for your home or commercial property.  

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